The Most Unbanked States

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – The recent spike in checking account fees and minimum deposit requirements has driven many low-income Americans away from banks and into the ranks of the so-called “unbanked.” A survey conducted by the Pew Health Group found that during a 12-month period, 13% of low-income Los Angeles residents dropped their bank accounts, while just 8% of unbanked people opened one. The numbers show a clear trend of the poor being forced out of the banking world.

Now another Pew survey is shedding more light on where the problem is worst. A report by the Pew Charitable Trusts looks at the percentage of households in each state that do not have a bank account, and the South is the clear loser. Of the states where more than 10% of households are unbanked, all are in the southern region (the one exception is Washington, D.C., a federal district that isn’t in the South but is below the Mason-Dixon line, with 12.2% of its population unbanked.) The worst of the lot is Mississippi, where 16.4% of households are unbanked.

On the other end of the spectrum, New England had a strong showing, with New Hampshire in particular registering a tiny 2.2% unbanked population. The overall winner, however, was Utah, with just 1.7% of households – 15,000 of them – without a bank account.

It’s interesting to see how the map lines up with the recent ranking of the eight states with the biggest income inequality. Among the states that made that list, half of them – Alabama, Texas, Mississippi and the District of Columbia – have an unbanked population higher than 10%. Given the high correlation between low income and being unbanked, it should probably come as no surprise that states with a big gap between the rich and poor would have a lot of people who don’t bank.

Here are the most unbanked states, by percentage of households without a bank account.

1.    Mississippi (16.4%)
2.    Georgia (12.2%)
3.    District of Columbia (12.2%)
4.    Kentucky (11.9%)
5.    Texas (11.7%)
6.    Alabama (11.6%)
7.    New Mexico (11.4%)
8.    South Carolina (10.2%)
9.    Arkansas (10.1%)
10.    Tennessee (9.95)

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